Although much maligned for its excesses, mass media has become our national hearth — the place we go to share the collective story of who we are and where we are going. Pearl Harbor helped to make that so, which is one reason that what happened 74 years ago today, on Dec. 7, 1941, is worth remembering.
Americans were enjoying a quiet Sunday when they heard the news, quickly spread on radio broadcasts, that Japanese warplanes had attacked naval facilities at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Japanese destroyed nearly 20 navel vessels, including eight battleships, and almost 200 airplanes. More than 2,000 members of the military died in the attack, and another 1,000 were wounded. Japan intended to destroy America’s ability and will to fight. Instead, the attack roused the world’s largest democracy to its feet. By 1945, the United States and its allies had prevailed, advancing human freedom around the globe.
Connected by the airwaves, Americans found the unity and resolve to fight a global war. Those were trying times, but we knew who our enemies were back then, which made it easier to find common purpose and moral clarity.
Thanks to those strengths and the sacrifices of a people who would come to be known as the Greatest Generation, the United States and its friends emerged as victors in World War II.
Japan, once such a bitter adversary, has been a close U.S. ally for generations now, along with Germany and Italy, two other enemies in that brutal war. Such transformations underscore the possibility that deep political hatred doesn’t have to live forever. That hope must be a comfort to us as the United States and its partners continue to confront other despots who prefer tyranny to tolerance.
Today, on this solemn anniversary, we honor the resilience of free people, our most important resource as new threats to liberty loom.